To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, what are the differences and similarities between the Cunninghams and Ewells?    

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both the Cunningham and Ewell families are considered poor and struggle to make ends meet throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Children in both families are continually truant and do not excel in the area of academics. The Cunninghams and Ewells are also prejudiced against African Americans. Walter Cunningham is the leader of a mob that attempts to lynch Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell, at her father's urging, falsely accuses Tom of raping her. Despite their similarities, the Cunninghams and Ewells have different values and personalities. The Cunninghams are respectful individuals who are trusted throughout Maycomb's community. One of the defining features of the Cunningham family is their refusal to accept anything that they cannot pay back. The Cunninghams are also hard workers who express their loyalty to those who have earned their respect. In contrast, the Ewells are the most despicable family in Maycomb County. Bob Ewell is a disrespectful, vindictive, lazy, immoral individual who has a terrible reputation throughout the town. He is a notorious alcoholic, and his children share their father's cruel personality. Atticus tells Scout that the Ewells live like pigs, and the entire community views them with contempt.

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lcassidy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The similarities between these two families is that they are of the same socioeconomic status.  That is to say that they are both poor.  They are both often looked down upon by society because of their poverty.  However, a very important difference remains - that of the Cunningham's being "proud people".  Although they are poor, they are proud of what they do have and they are willing to work and pay for services rendered to them.  For example, Mr. Cunnignham pays Atticus Finch in chestnuts because he has no actual money with which to pay him.  He cannot, however, take a "hand out".  The same occurs with his son Walter - he cannot accept "charity" from his teacher.  They are proud people, whereas the Ewells are not. 

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